Bringing it full circle – celebrating Pi(e) Day

Brentaro Yamane | Layout/Multimedia Editor | Alison Altman (left), a sophomore nursing student, and Billie Kay Rebholz (right), the administrative assistant for the mathematics department, enjoyed the pie.

Max Marcello | Staff Writer

March 16, 2023

Pi is both a universal culinary favorite and a mathematical function, both of which came together this Pi Day with a collaborative event.

On March 14 the Department of Mathematics & computer science with Pi Mu Epsilon held a celebration for the iconic number.

Around two dozen students & faculty gathered in the NiteSpot for pi-themed festivities including pool trick shots from professor Andrew Segal.

Since Pi Day’s inception, the traditions of mathematics and pie eating have been intertwined, and the holiday has become an international celebration.

At Duquesne’s Pi Day event, the traditions of pie the food and pi the mathematical function were upheld.

A great variety of pies, both sweet and savory, were available to those who attended. Cherry, lemon meringue, blackberry, pumpkin and apple were just some of the options.

Students and faculty competed in a pi themed trivia for prizes. Such questions included: “Where is the zip code 31415 located at?” and “What is the Greek word whose first letter is pi’s namesake?” The answer to these questions, in order, are “Savannah, Georgia” and the Greek word “περιφέρεια” which translates to circumference.

Dr. Samantha Allen, a first-year professor of mathematics created the trivia in addition to organizing the event itself.

“I can say that I think this is the first time we’ve done trivia at Pi Day. We’ll try to get some feedback from students,” Allen said.

Rebutting the image of mathematics in popular culture as a spiritless and daunting endeavor was something behind the Pi Day celebration, Allen said. Her reaction was shared by fellow faculty member Dr. Lauren Sugden, a professor of mathematics and faculty advisor to Pi Mu Epsilon.

“I hope that events like this help develop a sense of community among students who come through our department. It is a great opportunity to relax and get to know other students and professors in an informal environment,” Sugden said.

This informal environment attracted a great deal of students, as turnout was higher than expected.

Nina Paliouras, a pharmacy student, visited the Pi Day celebration. She noted the positive atmosphere. “I love seeing how everyone’s coming out, taking a break from studying and just enjoying themselves,” she said.

One of the centerpiece attractions of the event was a trick shot demonstrations by Andrew Segal.Segal, a professor of computer science at Duquesne, is a world-renowned pool player. Playing since his adolescence in New York City, Segal has won world championships including the ESPN & Masters multiple times.

Although he no longer plays competitively, Segal has never put down the cue stick. This was the second annual Pi Day in which Segal demonstrated trick shots for attendees.

Despite the event being held to celebrate math, Segal admitted that mathematics does not play a role in his pool strategy.

“I just hit it and go,” he said. “Once you get a feel when you’re at it, you just let the math and the geometry, and the physics take its own form.”

Segal demonstrated a wide variety of trick shots including shooting the balls atop large playing cards, bouncing the cue ball against the table’s surface, and curving the cue ball around a volunteer’s upper body to hit a ball on the other side.

Segal also partook in the Pi Day festivities, and he said his favorite pie flavor is cherry.

Segal’s performance brought both students and faculty from far beyond the math department.

One such case was Paul Miller, a professor of music at Mary Pappert. Miller attended the event in a brightly colored Hawaiian shirt to support his friend Segal. Through his friendship with Segal, the music professor has had the opportunity to explore a part of mathematics he otherwise would not have the chance to appreciate.

“I am sitting in on [Segal’s] Python class because there’s a lot of things about music that can be modeled mathematically,” Miller said. “Furthermore, there are a lot of ways to generate musical structures algorithmically. Plus, Python is a great language for processing data, and I wanted to get into it.”

All told, Pi Day brought the opportunity for students, faculty, and math geeks to enjoy food, comradery, and the number pi, creating and bolstering the circle of pie lovers here at Duquesne.